From: Ridgway Of Montana
What Harley had sought in the subornation of Eaton had been as much the
moral effect of his defection as the tangible results themselves. If he
could shake the confidence of the city and State in the freebooter's
victorious star, he would have done a good day's work. He wanted the
impression to spread that Ridgway's success had passed its meridian.
Nor did he fail of his purpose by more than a hair's breadth. The talk of
the street saw the beginning of the end. The common voice ran: "It's 'God
help Ridgway' now. He's down and out."
But Waring Ridgway was never more dangerous than in apparent defeat. If he
were hit hard by Eaton's treachery, no sign of it was apparent in the
jaunty insouciance of his manner. Those having business with him expected
to find him depressed and worried, but instead met a man the embodiment of
vigorous and confident activity. If the subject were broached, he was ready
to laugh with them at Eaton's folly in deserting at the hour when victory
It was fortunate for Ridgway that the county elections came on early in the
spring and gave him a chance to show that his power was still intact. He
arranged to meet at once the political malcontents of the State who were
banded together against the growing influence of the Consolidated. He had a
few days before called together representative men from all parts of the
State to discuss a program of action against the enemy, and Ridgway gave a
dinner for them at the Quartzite, the evening of Eaton's defection.
He was at the critical moment when any obvious irresolution would have been
fatal. His allies were ready to concede his defeat if he would let them.
But he radiated such an assured atmosphere of power, such an unconquerable
current of vigor, that they could not escape his own conviction of
unassailability. He was at his genial, indomitable best, the magnetic charm
of fellowship putting into eclipse the selfishness of the man. He had been
known to boast of his political exploits, of how he had been the Warwick
that had made and unmade governors and United States senators; but the
fraternal "we" to-night replaced his usual first person singular.
The business interests of the Consolidated were supreme all over the State.
That corporation owned forests and mills and railroads and mines. It ran
sheep and cattle-ranches as well as stores and manufactories. Most of the
newspapers in the State were dominated by it. Of a population of two
hundred and fifty thousand, it controlled more than half directly by the
simple means of filling dinner-pails. That so powerful a corporation,
greedy for power and wealth, should create a strong but scattered hostility
in the course of its growth, became inevitable. This enmity Ridgway
proposed to consolidate into a political organization, with opposition to
the trust as its cohesive principle, that should hold the balance of power
in the State.
When he rose to explain his object in calling them together, Ridgway's
clear, strong presentment of the situation, backed by his splendid bulk and
powerful personality, always bold and dramatic, shocked dormant antagonisms
to activity as a live current does sluggish inertia. For he had eminently
the gift of moving speech. The issue was a simple one, he pointed out.
Reduced to ultimates, the question was whether the State should control the
Consolidated or the Consolildated the State. With simple, telling force he
faced the insidious growth of the big copper company, showing how every
independent in the State was fighting for his business life against its
encroachments, and was bound to lose unless the opposition was a united
one. Let the independents obtain and keep control of the State politically
and the trust might be curbed; not otherwise. In eternal vigilance and in
union lay safety.
He sat down in silence more impressive than any applause. But after the
silence came a deluge of cheers, the thunder of them sweeping up and down
the long table like a summer storm across a lake.
Presently the flood-gates of talk were unloosed, and the conservatives
began to be heard. Opposition was futile because it was too late, they
claimed. A young Irishman, primed for the occasion, jumped to his feet with
an impassioned harangue that pedestaled Ridgway as the Washington of the
West. He showed how one man, in coalition with the labor-unions, had
succeeded in carrying the State against the big copper company; how he had
elected senators and governors, and legislators and judges. If one man
could so cripple the octopus, what could the best blood of the State,
standing together, not accomplish? He flung Patrick Henry and Robert Emmet
and Daniel Webster at their devoted
heads, demanding liberty or death with the bridled eloquence of his race.
But Ridgway was not such a tyro at the game of politics as to depend upon
speeches for results. His fine hand had been working quietly for months to
bring the malcontents into one camp, shaping every passion to which men are
heir to serve his purpose. As he looked down the table he could read in the
faces before him hatred, revenge, envy, fear, hope, avarice, recklessness,
and even love, as the motives which he must fuse to one common end. His
vanity stood on tiptoe at his superb skill in playing on men's wills. He
knew he could mold these men to work his desire, and the sequel showed he
When the votes were counted at the end of the bitter campaign that
followed, Simon Harley's candidates went down to disastrous defeat all over
the State, though he had spent money with a lavish hand. In Mesa County,
Ridgway had elected every one of his judges and retired to private life
those he could not influence.
Harley's grim lips tightened when the news reached him. "Very well," he
said to Mott "We'll see if these patriots can't be reached through their
stomachs better than their brains. Order every mill and mine and smelter of
the Consolidated closed to-night. Our employees have voted for this man
Ridgway. Let him feed them or let them starve."
"But the cost to you--won't it be enormous?" asked Mott, startled at his
chief's drastic decision.
Harley bared his fangs with a wolfish smile. "We'll make the public pay.
Our store-houses are full of copper. Prices will jump when the supply is
reduced fifty per cent. We'll sell at an advance, and clean up a few
millions out of the shut-down. Meanwhile we'll starve this patriotic State
It came to pass even as Harley had predicted. With the Consolidated mines
closed, copper, jumped up--up--up. The trust could sit still and coin money
without turning a hand, while its employees suffered in the long, bitter
Northern winter. All the troubles usually pursuant on a long strike began
to fall upon the families of the miners.
When a delegation from the miners' union came to discuss the situation with
Harley he met them blandly, with many platitudes of sympathy. He
regretted--he regretted exceedingly--the necessity that had been forced
upon him of closing the mines. He had delayed doing so in the hope that the
situation might be relieved. But it had grown worse, until he had been
forced to close. No, he was afraid he could not promise to reopen this
winter, unless something were done to ameliorate conditions in the court.
Work would begin at once, however, if the legislators would pass a bill
making it optional with any party to a suit to have the case transferred to
another judge in case he believed the bias of the presiding judge would be
prejudicial to an impartial hearing.
Ridgway was flung at once upon the defensive. His allies, the working men,
demanded of him that his legislature pass the bill wanted by Harley, in
order that work might recommence. He evaded their demands by proposing to
arbitrate his difficulties with the Consolidated, by offering to pay into
the union treasury hall a million dollars to help carry its members through
the winter. He argued to the committee that Harley was bluffing, that
within a few weeks the mines and smelters would again be running at their
full capacity; but when the pressure on the legislators he had elected
became so great that he feared they would be swept from their allegiance to
him, he was forced to yield to the clamor.
It was a great victory for Harley. Nobody recognized how great a one more
accurately than Waring Ridgway. The leader of the octopus had dogged him
over the shoulders of the people, had destroyed at a single blow one of his
two principal sources of power. He could no longer rely on the courts to
support him, regardless of justice.
Very well. If he could not play with cogged dice, he was gambler enough to
take the honest chances of the game without flinching. No despair rang in
his voice. The look in his eye was still warm and confident. Mesa
questioned him with glimpses friendly but critical. They found no fear in
his bearing, no hint of doubt in his indomitable assurance.
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